Components of the Study
The study examined six days in the heat of the primary season. It studied the two days after the Michigan and Arizona primaries, the two days leading into Virginia and Washington and the two days leading into Super Tuesday (February 23, 24, 27, 28 and March 5 & 6). There were two elements studied for each web site, the political front pages and the lead story on the page:
The Political Front Page
The political front pages were examined once a day, at 9 a.m., in several ways. First, we counted the total number of election related stories. Next we counted how many of those had original reporting. Third, we calculated how many stories were prominent or featured and then how many of those featured stories had changed since the last time we saw the page.
Next we considered some Internet-specific elements on the pages. We tallied the amount and type of other web sites a user could click to, such as Vote-Smart.org or CNN.com. Next we counted the number of targeted links to specific pages -rather than home pages-such as a page detailing a candidate's voting record or biographical data. Finally, we looked for links to pages of unfiltered audio or video. This would include an unedited speech by Al Gore but not an NBC TV story about the speech.
The Lead Story
In addition to the political front pages, we studied the lead story on each page four times a day. We broke each story down four ways. First we identified what triggered each story. A candidate? The press? Something else? Then we noted what each story was about, the topic. Third, we considered how each story was put together or framed. Finally, the study calculated the level of sourcing for each story and classified the type of first source used.
In addition the study noted two Internet-specific aspects of each story. How many, if any, links are there to unfiltered information relating to the story? And finally, has this lead story changed since the last download of this site?